Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Obama Short-priced Favorite Down Under

Voices without Votes, Americans vote, the world speaks

There has been a lot of political interest in animals lately, so an equine example seems appropriate.

Australians are keenly looking forward to the race that stops a nation on the first Tuesday in November.

It’s not the US elections! So what is it?

It’s the Melbourne Cup , Australia’s richest horse race. Our own Kentucky Derby. Even the House of Representatives and Senate in Canberra adjourn to watch the race. So do State Parliaments around the country.

Might and Power, The Grafter, Patron, Nimblefoot.
These aren’t episodes of the West Wing!

Windbag, Statesman, Black Knight, Carbine, Red Handed, Rising Fast.
Are they nicknames of Presidential candidates?

Baghdad Note, Clean Sweep, Light Fingers, Media Puzzle.
They’re not election headlines for newspapers or blog posts.

So what are they? They’re some of the winners of the Melbourne Cup over its 146 year history. Some are national icons like Man o’ War or Seabiscuit in the United States. They are better known than most of our Prime Ministers. Phar Lap, who died in suspicious circumstances in California in 1932, is the most famous.

Which brings me to the campaign trail in Australia. After the 2000 fiasco in Florida, where a handful of votes decided the Presidency, Democrats are only too aware that every vote can count. The votes of citizens outside the U.S. may be crucial in this year’s potential dead heat. According to Democrats Abroad Australia there are 100,000 citizens in Australia. A mere 414 voted in the Democrats Abroad Primary that Barack Obama won comfortably in February:

Approximately 20,000 voted globally in the primary. The Asia Pacific (AP) Region broke strongly for Obama 72.6% - 25.6%. Globally, it was Obama 65.8% - 32.5% over Clinton in the Global Primary, conducted Feb. 1-12. Primary Results - Asia Pacific Region
A similar number were surveyed in a recent GlobeScan poll for the BBC:
All 22 countries in a BBC World Service poll would prefer Democratic nominee Barack Obama elected US president instead of his Republican rival John McCain. Obama is preferred by a four to one margin on average across the 22,000 people polled.
Australia has among the largest majorities favouring Barack Obama’s election as US president and saying America’s relations with the rest of the world would improve under an Obama presidency. Obama win preferred in world poll
Down under, the breakdown was 67% favouring Obama with only 13% preferring McCain. 62% thought Australia’s relations with the rest of the world would improve with Barack as President. The sample size was 1000.

This is not necessarily the good news for Obama supporters. John Kerry won this poll in 2004.

Democrats Abroad Australia is the official Obama organisation in Australia. It has groups in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Its members and supporters are distributing Tell An American To Vote leaflets during morning rush hour in central Sydney and at the famous Bondi Beach. The Melbourne Chapter of DAA is planning to host a debate of the issues in the current US presidential election with a prominent Democrat and a prominent Republican. Events are also taking place to watch the presidential debates between Obama and McCain.

The current focus is to register potential voters and help them with voting procedures whilst overseas. As Carmelan Polce, Regional Field Director of Pacific Americans Abroad for Obama, commented:
We need all the help we can get to find US citizens who support Obama and register them to vote by Absentee ballot. This will be a very close election!! Every vote counts!! Please do not delay - register to vote and request your absentee ballot NOW!!
One of the volunteers, Greg Carr worked in Sydney near the Harbour Bridge:
Here in Sydney Australia, enthusiastic Democrats turned out to support Obama's Bridges To Hope. And indeed, it was hard to keep them in one place for a photo. So enthusiastic, so hopeful; as we all are.

He also campaigned at the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras Parade, one of Sydney's premier events where more than half a million people watched the parade.

They are also desperately seeking campus outreach volunteers to help us find U.S. study abroad students on Australian university campuses.

There are both official DAA Facebook groups such as Australia for Obama and several other unofficial ones such as Real Labor Supporters Don't Back Republicans.

Cassidy Knowlton, Chairwoman, Democrats Abroad Victoria said recently:
Eight years ago America was at peace, was respected in the world and had a booming economy. Now we are mired in an unnecessary and hugely expensive war, our allies have deserted us, our economy is in the toilet and our civil liberties have been stolen. John McCain voted with George Bush 90% of he time, and if elected he will continue to enact policies that destroy America. He ants to overturn Roe v Wade and take away a woman's right to control her own body. He wants to drill in Alaska for a small amount of oil, even though he knows it would make no difference whatsoever to the current fuel crisis and would destroy one of the few pristine wildernesses we have left.

McCain has said "100 years in Iraq would be fine with me." How many more American men and women in uniform have to die because of Republican arrogance and lies? Vanity Fair has estimated the Iraq war has cost $3 trillion already. How many more trillions of dollars, dollars that we could be using to help Americans pay for health care, education, clean energy, are we going to burn in Iraq?

The choice couldn't be more clear. Obama wants to protect Americans' rights, McCain wants to take them away. Obama wants to get us out of the quagmire that is Iraq and support our troops by bringing them home; McCain wants to keep them there for 100 years and throw away countless thousands of American lives on a failed war based on a lie. Obama wants to invest in clean energy, create jobs and spark economic growth to deal with the fuel crisis. McCain wants to destroy one of the few pristine wilderness areas left in America to drill for oil, which would increase oil supplies by less than 1 per cent and would not be available for use until 2017. Obama wants to lower taxes for the middle class and lower-income Americans; McCain wants to raise them.
As for the blogoshpere, the right wing down here have embraced Sarah Palin’s candidacy, just as the progressives have welcomed Barack Obama as a breathe of fresh air. I’ve posted about local bloggers’ reactions on Voices without Votes . Before the Palin factor, there was little comment from the conservative side. Ironically, it appears that most of the DAA activists are women.

In this volatile electoral climate, we can expect vote-chasing outside the U.S. to hot up in coming weeks. Australians are well known for liking a bet. What odds a black president? Another Melbourne Cup winner was called Even Stevens!

This blogpost is cross-posted from Voices Without Votes, a Global Voices project that aims to enable readers to experience American events through the eyes of ordinary citizens from outside the United States.

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